Preventing pain medication overdoses in children

Caring For Our Kids

Any time a child is sick or in pain, parents want to relieve their discomfort, often turning to over-the-counter pain relievers. Children’s pain relievers can be safe and effective when used properly, but getting an overdose of any medication can be serious for a child, and it happens more often than you may think.

Dr. Ryan Redman with East Tennessee Children’s Hospital says they see accidental overdoses often. Scenarios can include being in a hurry, combining medications, using wrong formulations or leaving medications in the reach of children.

When a child gets too much medicine, depending on the dose and medication, there can be several reactions. Children can become drunk or even hyper. Acetaminophen, for example, is safe when used properly, but can cause liver damage if a child gets too much. Too much ibuprofen can cause stomach upset, abdominal pain, vomiting, kidney damage, ulcers, bleeding and seizures. 

Pain relievers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen can be helpful for children in pain, but make sure to use them only as directed, use the correct measuring device, and don’t rely on them for long term use. If your child’s pain continues for more than a few days, speak with your doctor to rule out a more serious injury.

Redman says to never give your child aspirin. There is a risk of a serious condition called Reye Syndrome.

You should bring your child to the emergency room if he or she has difficulty breathing, breaks out in hives, or suddenly develops swelling of the tongue, lips or face. Those are signs of a severe allergic reaction and require emergency medical care. Anytime you believe your child has been given too much medication or isn’t acting like him or herself after taking medication, you should seek medical care.

You cal also call Poison Help for advice at (800) 222-1222.

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